The End of Leadership

By Barbara Kellerman

(HarperBusiness, 256 pp., $27.99)

In The End of Leadership, Barbara Kellerman, an expert in the leadership industry, draws on the history of leadership and her professional experience to provide readers a glimpse into how leadership and followership have evolved over time. She questions the validity of the industry and its teachings on how to become a leader.

In this work, Kellerman discusses the paradigm shift from a focus on the leader as dictator and the follower as subordinate to a world in which the follower is empowered and the leader is more passive.

Backed by extensive historical references, Kellerman describes the manner in which leadership has shifted to a more follower-centric and controlled paradigm. She explains how followers have gained their newly found power and how leaders have become, in many cases, figure heads that no longer are feared or respected.

Leaders may ask how this has happened. As Kellerman explains, in some instances individuals have changed their personal situations, and other times groups have banded together to right perceived wrongs.

Today followers gain power by uncovering the personal and professional weaknesses of their leaders and publicizing their findings through social media venues such as Twitter and Facebook. Followers are demanding responses from their leaders, and leaders are providing them. Kellerman surmises that leaders are more intimidated by the followers of today and that the opposite is not necessarily true.

Kellerman acknowledges that there are no easy answers to the problems in the current leadership industry, and that thought leaders and practitioners must come together to make changes to theory and development course offerings.

Throughout the book, she cites the many theories and programs being used in an industry that is "dedicated to training a leadership cadre ... of consummate professionals, who can and will take charge."

However, Kellerman believes that the leadership industry is not ready to face the challenges involved in training leaders to be effective under these circumstances and that it must change to be prepared for this new age of leadership and followership.

Reading this book may make readers think twice before enrolling in a leadership development course. While I found that it offered an interesting history lesson on the evolution of leadership, I thought the book lacked resolutions for the quandary of how to form effective leaders and followers in modern-day society.

I give this book three cups of coffee.

Team Turnarounds: A Playbook for Transforming Underperforming Teams

Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl

Jossey-Bass, 272 pp., $25.95

In today's economic climate, businesses often are asked to increase productivity with fewer resources. Because of this, many teams struggle to adjust to change, maximize their strengths, or mange their problem areas. In Team Turnarounds, the authors use data collected from interviews with a variety of managers—from sports teams to Fortune 500 companies—to develop a six-step model to successfully execute turnarounds in any organization. With first-hand accounts and behind-the-scenes information, Frontiera and Leidl prove that even the most underprivileged team can reverse a negative trend and perform at its best.

The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything

Mathew May

McGraw-Hill, $24, 240 pp.

May believes that each year the world becomes more complex, making it increasingly difficult for individuals to succeed. In The Laws of Subtraction, he explores how eliminating excess from one's life leads to fruition. These six simple laws are: what isn't there can often trump what is, the simplest rules create the most effective experience, limiting information engages the imagination, creativity thrives under intelligent constraints, break is the important part of breakthrough, and doing something isn't always better than doing nothing. Using these tenets, May guides readers to identify problem areas and cut the waste to achieve their goals.

 

The Leader's Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensable Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Any Situation

John Baldoni

AMACOM, 224 pp., $19.95

In The Leader's Pocket Guide, Baldoni provides readers with brief, on-the-job expertise to motivate and direct them on their professional journeys. This concise tome is written as a reference guide and provides easy access to the well-organized and practical information sought by readers. In three sections—self, colleagues, and organization—the book supplies readers with tactical ideas about how to communicate with authority, demonstrate character, deliver inspiration, and develop confidence. Incorporating up-to-date research on the role of leaders today, this book enables readers to become greater influencers in every arena of their lives.

What's on Nick Bilton's bookshelf?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite books of all time. It has nothing to do with business, but it shows that through determination, imagination, and a goal, you can persevere. It also fills out human fascination with apocalyptic stories, and how humans still manage to survive—at least a few of them.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes strikes a special cord in today's constantly connected world, exploring what we remember and how our minds tend to rewrite history. It's so eloquently written, too, that it's impossible to put down.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is set in modern-day Silicon Valley and involves the digital world and workplace we live in today. This includes Twitter, Google, and iPhones, which are all mingled together with a modern-day protagonist who has to solve the novel's mystery.